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The State of Veteran Suicide (2024)

Every year, the VA conducts the largest national analysis of veteran suicide rates. According to their 2023 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report – based on data from 2021 – veteran suicide rates increased by 11.6% from 2020. On average, according to the VA, more than 17 veterans take their own lives each day. 

But a 2022 interim report published by America’s Warrior Partnership and Duke University suggested veteran suicides are underreported – and as many as 24 veterans a day die on average from suicide; an additional 20 die by “self-injury mortality,” otherwise known as overdose. 

According to a Mission Roll Call research survey, more than half of Americans do not believe the federal government has been effective in addressing veteran suicide prevention. Among those who know a veteran or service member, this number is higher.

If half the population can see that we’re failing our veterans, then we urgently need to solve this issue, as a nation. 

While mental health is an important element in understanding and preventing veteran suicide, this issue should not be solely viewed as a mental health issue that can be solved through counseling and prescription medicine alone. This approach is far too short-sighted and not sufficient to address the array of circumstances contributing to suicide ideation among active duty service members and veterans. Veterans need a holistic approach that addresses a number of other issues impacting their wellbeing. 

Here’s a look at the state of veteran suicide in 2024. In this report, we’ll discuss the following:

How many veterans commit suicide?

According to VA data, there were 6,392 veteran suicides from 2020-2021. This period saw the largest single year increase in veteran suicides, and veteran suicide is now the number two cause of death by veterans under the age of 45.

This number is likely much higher. The VA gets its numbers reported by county authorities throughout the country. This method failed to identify veterans about 18% of the time. The VA data also doesn’t include deaths aligned with self-harm, predominantly overdose deaths. According to an ongoing study by America’s Warrior Partnership, the actual number could be even higher with all the other data taken into account. 

The numbers are increasing among women especially. During that period, the suicide rate among women veterans jumped an alarming 24.1%.

More concerning is that there is reason to believe these numbers don’t give an accurate picture of our veteran suicide crisis. When America’s Warrior Partnership worked with the University of Alabama and Duke University for its Operation Deep Dive (OpDD) research initiative, which examined the deaths of service members in eight states, they found that the number of veteran suicides is significantly higher than the VA’s count. Their research indicates that former service members take their own lives each year at a rate approximately 2.4 times greater than VA estimates. 

Focusing on those between the ages of 18-64, the OpDD study looked at 850,000 death records over a five-year period starting in 2017. It concluded that at least 40-44 veterans are taking their lives each day — a drastic difference from the VA’s estimate of around 17 per day.

The Operation Deep Dive statistics dramatically underscore the need for greater suicide prevention efforts for our veterans. 

Do veterans of the Global War on Terror have a higher suicide rate?

The goal of the Global War on Terror (GWOT) was to secure our nation and combat extremism throughout the world after the devastating 9/11 terrorist attacks. An estimated 3 million Americans served in the GWOT, with operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, and elsewhere.

Due to unprecedented war environments, a staggering number of GWOT veterans have suffered traumatic brain injuries, PTS, and mental and physical wounds, with studies showing they are taking their lives at a higher rate than veterans of previous wars. Since the 2001 launch of the war on terror, suicide rates have roughly doubled in the military. And the number of active duty personnel and veterans who have died by suicide is more than four times the number killed in combat over the past twenty years. In 2021, research found that 30,177 active duty personnel and veterans who served in the military after 9/11 have died by suicide - compared to the 7,057 service members killed in combat in those same 20 years.

U.S. military veterans who served after 9/11 are much more likely to have been in combat zones than their pre-9/11 counterparts, and half say their service traumatized them, according to a 2019 report from the Pew Research Center. Thirty-six percent of veterans overall reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress, and those people expectedly reported a rougher transition to civilian life – including trouble paying bills (61%), trouble finding medical care (42%), and substance abuse struggles (41%), Pew reported.

The chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2020 and 2021, after 20 years of fighting, was a painful end to America’s longest war for many veterans and active duty service members. The operations there resulted in the deaths of 2,218 service members and left 20,093 physically wounded. And for those who returned home, there’s no way to truly quantify the impact. 

Brown University’s Costs of War Project, released in 2021, looked at suicide rates for veterans of the GWOT (or what the project refers to as the “post-9/11 wars”). The study found that while suicide rates among non-veterans have been increasing for the past 20 years, the suicide rate among active service members and veterans of the GWOT is outpacing non-veteran Americans. Among GWOT veterans between 18-35 years old, the rate is 2.5 times that of all civilians and double that of civilians the same age.

The project estimates that 30,177 active duty service members and veterans of the GWOT have died by suicide, compared to 7,057 service members killed in combat or other war operations. These high suicide rates are attributed to multiple factors, some inherent to fighting in a war and others unique to the circumstances of the GWOT. For instance, the war in Afghanistan had a high prevalence of roadside bombings and hazy lines between safe zones and battle zones.

Across the board, the GWOT saw a rise in improvised explosive devices (IED) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) impacting service members. Traumatic brain injury can elevate the risk of PTS and other mental health challenges

Moreover, the war’s protracted length, coupled with the American public’s disinterest as time passed, has also impacted veterans’ mental health. According to Mission Roll Call research, 70% of veterans say that the withdrawal from Afghanistan negatively impacted the way they view America's legacy in the Global War on Terror.

It’s also important to note that some of the GWOT veterans who have died by suicide did not all serve in combat roles. This suggests that the circumstances leading to their suicides went beyond the common dangers associated with war and could have been attributed to less-mentioned factors like moral wounds, sexual traumas, and the impact of military culture.

What are the leading causes of mental health issues among veterans?

Service members often face ongoing exposure to traumatic incidents, stressors, and threats. Mental health-related symptoms and issues that disproportionately impact veterans include:

  • Suicide

  • Depression

  • Post-traumatic stress (PTS)

  • Substance abuse disorders (SUDs)

  • Symptom of traumatic brain injury (TBI)

  • Anxiety

  • Insomnia

Improvements in protective gear and medicine have increased survival rates among injured soldiers, yet those who survive often return home with serious physical and psychological trauma. And while suicide should not only be looked at through the lens of mental health, veterans are at a higher risk for PTS than civilians. The condition usually develops after exposure to traumatic incidents like natural disasters, war catastrophes, or other life-threatening events. It can cause severe emotional anguish, mental stress, and decreased quality of life for veterans.

PTS has come to be known as the “signature wound” of the GWOT. The VA reports that 15 out of every 100 veterans who served in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) – in Afghanistan and Iraq – have experienced PTS symptoms in the past year. They estimate that 29% of these veterans will experience PTS at some point in their lifetime. One potential reason for this is the high number of brain injuries during these conflicts. An estimated 22% of all OIF and OEF combat wounds were brain injuries. And the fact that veterans face distinct barriers to accessing adequate mental health treatment is only exacerbating these challenges.

Data from the RAND Center for Military Health Policy Research shows that less than half of veterans in need of mental health services receive treatment. Of those who do receive treatment for major depression and PTS specifically, fewer than one-third are getting what the government refers to as “evidence-based care,” i.e. pills and therapy. 

This makes a big difference. The VA reports that among veteran suicide decedents, the percentage with recent Veterans Health Administration (VHA) encounters increased from 26.2% in 2001 to 38.1% in 2021. It means that veterans committing suicide over that period were more likely to have received VHA health care.

There have also been growing concerns about mental health stressors related to the COVID-19 pandemic. These concerns remain even now. The VA’s 2021 analysis noted that all-cause mortality among VHA patients increased during COVID-19 — including those without diagnosed mental health conditions — and exceeded the number of deaths directly associated with COVID-19.

What can the U.S. government do to prevent veteran suicide?

Although there are many efforts toward suicide prevention and mental health for veterans, the U.S. government can be more proactive in addressing these issues. The VA’s budget has increased by more than $200 billion since 2001, with a greater commitment to veteran suicide prevention initiatives – but the number of veteran suicides is still far, far too high. 

This is why Mission Roll Call exists – to provide veterans with a powerful, unified voice that is heard by our nation's leaders and communities.

In 2020, the Veteran Crisis Line (VCL) system was incorporated into 988, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and Congress has pushed for bipartisan legislation that would devote more funding to improving veterans’ health care and other services.

The Biden administration also acknowledged a need to do more for our veterans. President Joe Biden called caring for veterans “one of our country’s most sacred obligations.” In November 2021, the Biden administration released a new national strategy to reduce military and veteran suicide, and in his 2023 State of the Union address, he named ending veteran suicide as the VA's top clinical priority and a key part of his Unity Agenda. 

Addressing veteran suicide is a holistic issue. It's often a collection of problems that accumulate – acute financial stress, relationship stress, unemployment and a service-connected mental health issue. 

In a recent Mission Roll Call poll, three out of four veterans said they do not believe there is sufficient access to mental health services for veterans. Our country must make mental health services easier to access – whether that means shortening wait times for appointments, assisting veterans with transportation, clarifying healthcare benefits, enabling more access to out-of-network care, and more. 

Mission Roll Call is also advocating for the VA to provide more grant funding to local organizations to alleviate problems like financial or relationship stress, as well as access to education and employment services. That portion of the VA budget is only one tenth of 1% of the VA's overall budget, and it should be much higher. 

Transition assistance programs also need to be further developed. Service members often join the military out of high school and come from disadvantaged backgrounds. When they get out of service and are no longer part of the military, they have to rediscover their identity and adjust to civilian life. 

Our system spends a lot of time teaching them how to be a uniformed member of the military, but there is not a similar commitment to teaching them how to be successful in civilian life afterward. 

What should I do if I suspect a veteran I know is thinking about suicide?

Spouses, family members and friends of veterans are often the first to identify risk factors for suicide. They may see warning signs, but they often don’t know who to contact or what to do. 

  • Talking about death, dying, or suicide

  • Seeming depressed or hopeless most of the time

  • Agitation, sleeplessness, or sleeping all the time 

  • Feeling excessive guilt, shame or failure 

  • Withdrawing from family, friends and hobbies they used to enjoy

  • Anger or violent behavior (including self-harm) 

  • Self-destructive behavior, such as drug abuse, risky use of weapons, etc.

  • Giving away prized possessions 

  • Seeming to “tie up loose ends”, like writing a will 

You can contact the Veteran Crisis Line at 988 (push 1) and speak to someone immediately, 24/7, even if you are a family member.

You can also bring a veteran to the nearest VA medical center. It doesn’t matter what the veteran’s discharge status is or if they are enrolled in VA health care. The VA may be able to provide or cover the cost of your emergency mental health care (at a VA or non-VA emergency room) and up to 90 days of related services—even if you’re not enrolled in VA health care.

If a health care provider determines a veteran is at risk of immediate self-harm, the VA will provide or cover the cost of care if the veteran served on active duty for more than 24 months, or served more than 100 days under a combat exclusion or in support of a contingency operation (including as a member of the Reserve), and didn’t get a dishonorable discharge. 

Most importantly, do not leave the person alone if you believe they are at immediate risk. 

If you do not believe the veteran you know is at urgent and immediate risk, but you want to find resources to improve their health and wellbeing, please look at our list of trusted veteran nonprofits. These include Black Ops Rescue, which pairs homeless pets with veterans in need; Boulder Crest Foundation, which offers free and life-changing Posttraumatic Growth programs to veterans; Fallen Outdoors, which organizes outdoor adventures for veterans; and many others. Often, creating a community of other veterans is an important step in recovery from trauma.    

Organizations such as Stop Soldier Suicide and Mission 22 also provide invaluable resources — not only for veterans dealing with suicide ideation but for concerned family and community members as well.

What can civilians do to prevent veteran suicide?

Without the proper support from their community and the government, many veterans turn to harmful coping mechanisms. You can help us advocate for a holistic approach that not only focuses on access to mental health care, but also on tailored employment retention programs, improvements in transition assistance, and greater funding for community providers specializing in veteran needs.

There is plenty that civilian Americans, politicians, family members and other veterans can do to decrease veteran suicides. 

These include: mentoring or hiring veterans in your community, especially those transitioning to civilian life; organizing support groups; volunteering for a veteran-serving organization; and providing discounted services to veterans and their families. You can also consider donating to a vetted veteran nonprofit that we know makes a difference in the veteran community. 

Getting to know a veteran is also likely to make a difference in being aware of their needs and being moved to serve in some way. MRC’s research survey showed that while 42% of Baby Boomers know a veteran, only 24% of Gen Z adults do.

Positive relationships can significantly impact mental and physical health, yet with each generation, fewer people have connections to veterans. It is important to find ways to bridge this generational gap, whether through volunteer opportunities for young people, educational initiatives, or other cross-generational programs.

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I am writing a manuscript that will include these kinds of advocates posting at this site. It appears to come down to primary care medical people including administrators using discretionary committee composed of doctors under terms of secrecy driving out veterans who, for instance, have posted on this site and who advocate for primary care VA. Thus, VA superficially appears successful on paper so to speak. All of which is to get the year end bonus for VA employees for successful primary care - which are based upon bogus records. We veterans must advocate dismantling of this punitive entity that has zero concern for veteran but maximum concern for their year end bonus for doctors nurses and administrators - ho…


Don Legun
Don Legun

I have 30 yrs of study based on my own experiences. I have developed plans and methods that would reduce suicides. I’ve shared these plans with positive support from my doctors and therapists yet because of ethics, they won’t pass these fresh ideas up “the chain”. I’ve tried writing the pentagon, politicians and universities and they won’t even open the door to hear what I’ve learned. I have over 400 pages of documented journaling of what works and what doesn’t. I’ve formulated plans to reduce suicide but if you don’t welcome fresh ideas from unknown sources you will never outgrow the rut the mental health system is in. Einstein said that it takes more than thought to solve a pro…


Spru-Seal® Balm
Spru-Seal® Balm

Someone help me get Homeless Vets off the streets and into the Forest for Foraging + Fire-Mitigation work with and -- I am not a veteran, but I kept hearing myself saying "the Forest Service needs a veritable ARMY of people to do the work they're responsible for managing." A Federal Bureaucracy not handling its responsibility and being entirely overwhelmed, imagine that. And yet, there's a so-called "Forgotten" army right under our noses and that everyone claims to care so much about. Foraging (and Fire Mitigating) is extraordinarily rehabilitative and enjoyable, mildly physical outdoors work. please contact me if you're interested in supporting the cause!


Billy Whyde
Billy Whyde

I am a Nam Vet that came down with and was diagnosed with CNS Vasculitis a very rare disease where only two in a million get it, no known cure. I filed for Disability with the VA on 30 of Nove2022 and on 17 May 2023 was denied! About my professional doctor that the VA paid in my medical care that wrote the Nexus letter stating my CNS Vasculitis was AGENT ORANGE was more than likely responsible!

I am a neurologist physician-scientist who specializes in caring for patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) and autoimmune disorders of the central nervous system. I am passionate about finding better treatments for MS that will prevent disability and disease progression. I believe in provi…

Billy Whyde
Billy Whyde

My claim is now 14 months old! You buy a $500,000 house and CC kode in thirty days. When the VA employees EGO out weigh the needs of a vet perhaps the VA needs disbanded. From a current VA employee that tried to assist correcting a wrong. Exactly. It’s frowned upon. To interfere with another case. They have reviewers to do that . Problem is, they don’t pull every case. Each Rater only gets 3 pulled per month. I have already mentioned to some higher ups that this needs to change. Told them it sucked watching a case be rated wrong and not being allowed to make a simple call

or send an email. The contacts I were given who…



It's like being haunted by a beast from the past and it does not ever give up. So setting across from a therapy person that has never been in the military is ludicrous. The damage done to the warrior can create a permanent change within the brain and the VA will not acknowledge that aspect. After living with this monster for 50 years, I'm 76 now my thought is for the VA to consider euthanasia as they are useless in the therapy category. Suicide is messy and the connotations tied to the act are all negative.

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